My students now have access to hundreds of online videos, teaching you everything from how to make a ball bounce to full character and creature performances. The idea is that you watch the lecture before coming in to class, and the classroom time itself becomes a workshop, rather than an information download. Better for everyone, and more fun. It's early days, but so far the feedback has been excellent. One freshman recently told me how he had compared notes with a friend of his studying a similar course at a different university. He was proud of how much more ground he had covered than his friend - the result of being pushed to study online in his own time.
Learn what you like online
For professionals looking to develop their own skills, online learning also gives you the opportunity to study the bits that you want, to focus on the parts that you are most interested in. The beauty of online learning is its flexibility and that fact that it can be organised around a day job or other commitments.
I often get asked which works better - online study or a blended learning approach. My answer is that both can and do work well, it all depends what you want to get out of your time studying. For animators just starting out in the industry having the opportunity to get expert advice in practical, face-to-face workshop sessions whilst also having access to supporting resources that provide background context on the practical skills is invaluable.
But for animators already working in industry who may not have time to access a full- or even part-time programme, online study can offer a fantastic alternative. With continuing developments in the field of education technology, there is no doubt that for practical fields of study like animation, blended learning offers a lot of potential to enhance the learning experience and open up opportunities for more people to access higher education.
Alex Williams is course leader for Buckinghamshire New University's BA(Hons) Animation and Visual Effects degree.
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